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In the Line of Beauty presents the work of a key group of eleven young Irish artists, whose current practices evoke a vitality and freshness in their engagement with the historical concept of beauty. Occupying the Courtyard, East Ground Galleries, In The Line of Beauty showcases the work of David Beattie, Oisín Byrne, Rhona Byrne, Aleana Egan, Fiona Hallinan, Sam Keogh, Caoimhe Kilfeather, Ciarán Murphy, Lisa Maria Murphy, Joseph Noonan-Ganley and Ciarán Walsh, alongside a print from William Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty, from the museum’s own collection.

While each artist’s work remains specific to their own concerns, impulses and practice, they come together in this exhibition to experiment with, and enquire into, notions of the line of beauty. 

The exhibition examines artists’ embrace of the beauty of objects, as well as their awareness of the ways in which beauty and materiality can transform experiences. The artworks selected for the exhibition, while reflecting the beauty of the object, also display a fascination with space, materiality and engagement of personal histories. This exhibition seeks to define the boundaries of materiality and non-materiality, while maintaining a concern for the search for beauty in our lives.

The title of this exhibition is taken from the term ‘The Line of Beauty’, a concept within art used to describe an S-shaped curved line (a serpentine line) appearing within an object, as the boundary line of an object, or as a virtual boundary line formed by the composition of several objects. This theory originated with William Hogarth and is an essential part of Hogarth’s theory of Aesthetics, as described in his theoretical treatise The Analysis of Beauty , 1753. According to this theory, S-Shaped curved lines signify liveliness and activity, and excite the attention of the viewer as contrasted with straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects. Focusing on the practical elements of beauty and elegance, The Analysis of Beauty examines the ideal form of the serpentine Line of Beauty, tracing its visual and formal applications from mundane, everyday objects to classical sculpture. In contrast to grand compositional lines, which are regularly found in Baroque or Rococo art, the serpentine line does not primarily dictate the entire composition of a canvas. Instead, the line should be understood as being found in parts; a composition is created by employing various types of lines in assorted relations to one another, without destroying its simplicity.

The title has also been inspired by the 2004 Booker Prize-winning novel by Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty. A key underlying theme of Hollinghurst’s novel is the distinction between spiritual and material beauty, an investigation which relates fluently to this exhibition at IMMA. The novel dramatises the dangers and rewards of the protagonists own private pursuit of beauty.

A limited edition has been created by Sam Keogh to accompany this exhibition, priced €25, which is available to buy from the IMMA Shop.

In the Line of Beauty is curated by Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions, IMMA, and assisted by Poi Marr, Programme Assistant: Exhibitions, IMMA.

In the Line of Beauty Catalogue

A fully-illustrated catalogue, published by IMMA, accompanies the exhibition, including a text by Booker Prize-winning author, Alan Hollinghurst. Price €5 euro


Talks and Lectures

Keynote Talk + Discussion | Dave Beech
Thursday 12 December, 6.00pm – 7.00pm, Lecture Room, IMMA
Beauty and the Revolutionary Subject

In this talk Dave Beech (London-based artist, writer and Senior Lecturer, Chelsea College of Art,) discusses the emergence of the modern conception of beauty and the cultural politics of this recent phenomenon, as well as contextualizing contested debates on beauty in artistic practice within the broader history of aesthetics. To expand on his concepts of beauty, Beech explores Hogarth’s pioneering role in making art for the public sphere and its connections to the bourgeois aesthetics and beauty as a subjective, individual matter of taste. This talk stems from Beech’s acclaimed publication Beauty, Documents of Contemporary Art, White Chapel, London, 2009.

This is followed by  a chaired discussion with Sinead Hogan (Lecturer, IADT) and David Beech. Click here for more information and to book.

Additional Resources 


Additional Resources

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.